In The Wild
Scientists previously believed there was only one species of rockhopper penguin however they have now been split into two, northern and southern, We are currently home to northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) which are found in the southern ocean. They breed on a number of southern ocean islands, with the largest populations found on the islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough, and smaller populations on the islands of Amsterdam and St Paul. They are the smallest of the crested species of penguins and while they are similar in appearance with striking yellow crests on their heads and distinctive red eyes, the crests are denser and longer in the northern species.
These penguins are noisy and quarrelsome, and get their name from their ability to hop from rock to rock. They use a series of bounds with both feet together to climb steep rock faces and then reach their rocky nesting sites by hopping over the surrounding rocks. They breed in large colonies and feed on krill and other crustaceans as well as on squid, octopus, and fish.
Females usually producing a clutch of two eggs, however it is only the chick from the larger of the two eggs that is likely to survive to adulthood. Both parents help to incubate the eggs for approximately 30 days. Once hatched, the male will remain to raise the chick for the first 25 days, while the female brings food back to the nest. After this time, the chick will leave the nest, and gather with other chicks in small groups known as 'crèches' whilst their parents forage for food.
Populations of rockhopper penguins have been declining over the last century, but recent, more rapid declines in their numbers have caused concern. The cause of these swift declines are currently unknown, however they may be suffering from increased levels of predation, as well as competition for food, as a result of the rapidly increasing population of Subantarctic fur seals. Other reasons may include disturbance and pollution, introduced predators and reduced food due to overfishing.